Are you overworked and overwrought? Are you tense, always tired and generally ‘under the weather’? These are things I hear often from my clients. Living in London is a rollercoaster of activity from waking up in the morning to bedtime; non-stop ‘things to do’ for many. As the body and mind start to buckle under the constant pressure to always ‘be doing’, then treatment is sought, but often the best healing can come from within. Qigong is a healing system based on health longevity practices and derived from Chinese religious ideas and a great way to start your own self-healing. I often recommend Qigong and meditation to stressed clients, particularly for anxiety and depression and those lacking in energy. There are many different forms of Qigong and in the summer I attended a day’s workshop to find out more about Zhineng Qigong from a couple of friendly and experienced Chinese teachers Lu and Ling. So as an antidote to the Christmas party season balance your partying by finding peace and tranquillity within.
A Day of Qigong for Health and Wellbeing
What a great day. The sun was shinning and very hot, we were in a big open space at the Portico Gallery in West Norwood, getting our Qi and mind working in harmony.
The notion of Qi
Let’s start with the basics. What is Qi? This is one of the essential ideas not only fundamental to Chinese Medicine but also to wider Chinese society. Qi, Chinese Medicine and Qigong all have deep roots in the culture and organisations of this ancient civilisation. The principles represent a world view prior to modern science and are based on thousands of years of thought, study and practice. They are the principles for a healthy and contented life. That is why when you see a practitioner of Chinese Medicine they often ask you so many questions, including about your mental health, emotions, what you eat, your relationships, how you exercise. We are very nosey people! We are creating a fine painting of you, to understand you and discern your patterns of disharmony. Biomedicine works on parts of the person, whereas Chinese Medicine works on the whole.
The notion of Qi is not easily translated though. Often we say it is the energy flowing through everything, but this is rather inaccurate. For the Chinese, Qi is everything in the universe be it the air we breathe or our bodies, the oceans and space. It is the thread connecting all being. It takes many forms and is constantly being moved and transformed. This is particularly where the analogy to energy is derived – the basic laws of physics dictate that energy cannot be made, but is transformed from one thing to another. In acupuncture we are working with Qi to restore health.
Qigong is about cultivating mindful intention to influence the quantity, quality movement and location of Qi within the body. The manipulation of Qi is influenced by thought, breathing, visualisation and movement. Zhineng Qigong means ‘wisdom healing Qigong’ and was developed in the 1970s and 1980s by Dr Pang Ming synthesised from other Qigong practices. One of our teachers, Lu had trained with Pang Ming in the 1990s. He explained that “where the mind goes, qi follows” and that we can use this to control our field of qi, directing it to where we want.
Teacher Lu explained 4 stages of Zhineng Qigong practice. The first is healing our physical health, then our emotional health and relationships, which then enhances our longevity and finally we find total freedom or enlightment. Lu, after 20 years of practice, said he has not quite reached enlightment! He explained changing our characters from childhood is not easy. Such dedication is inspiring.
Teacher Ling told us how opening our minds, to allow space for Qi to move, to let go of our bodies and imagine them only as Qi and Qi moving in space through our bodies creates free flowing Qi and benefits our health. This is a powerful concept, as the idea of opening up a painful joint, transforming it to Qi and allowing Qi to circulate gives the possibility of reducing that pain – allowing healing to take place.
We are lucky in our corner of London to have teachers of Zhineng Qigong. Caroline Whyman offers weekly Qigong sessions in West Norwood. More details about her classes and Zhineng Qigong can be found here:
Breathing for Peace
The mental and physical health benefits of regular meditation are known. There are many classes and different types of meditation. In Clapham the Buddhist Shambhala Meditation Centre offers weekly meditation sessions. These are free and you can get some individual tuition before you join everyone else. You don’t need to be a Buddhist or even interested in Buddhism. Their style of meditation focuses on bringing your attention to the rhythms of your own breath.
If you think you’d benefit from more help starting your meditation journey, try Shambhala’s one day workshops. These are generally run every few months. Keep an eye on their website for details.
For other ideas on finding quiet in London try reading Siobhan Wall’s guide to quiet places to meet, drink, and eat in London:
Quiet London by Siobhan Wall.